Home 2018 Elections This Is Not the Time to Fight Over Defining the Democratic Party

This Is Not the Time to Fight Over Defining the Democratic Party

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I’m planning on publishing this also sometime in the near future in newspapers in my rather red congressional district (VA-06). Aside from making a point to Democrats, this piece also seems to me a good way of getting the anti-Trump, pro-Blue-Wave testimony of the principled Republicans quoted below in front of conservative readers.

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The other day I saw an article titled “Democrats need to choose: Are they the party of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez or the party of Michael Bloomberg?” This was but one instance of a theme encountered these days concerning a battle between the progressive and moderate wings of the Democratic Party over the party’s future path.

The issues involved are important, but they are not the issues of this moment. What is paramount right now is nothing less than the future of American democracy, of the constitutional order and the rule of law—all of which are threatened at present by Trump and by the Trump Party that has made itself his servant.

Given that threat to the very nature of the nation our founders gave us, the battle to define the Democratic Party cannot be allowed to distract from fighting this battle — at once more immediate, more urgent, and more fundamental — that our moment in American history has foisted upon us.

Now is not the time for Democrats to focus on the choice of whether to be “the party of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez or the party of Michael Bloomberg.” It must be both—and more. History has mandated that the Democratic Party understand itself at this moment as the necessary instrument for saving the American constitutional order.

It must be the party not only of both its centrist and its progressive wings, but also of principled Republicans who understand the crisis into which America has descended.

Such is the nature of the present battle that people such as Steve Schmidt, Joe Scarborough, Max Boot, Jennifer Rubin, Benjamin Wittes and Jonathan Rauch, even George Will —lifelong Republicans — have recognized that the demands of the present crisis take precedence over their old partisan allegiance. They’ve recognized that their old party must now be defeated because it has become a threat to what’s most important about America.

  • Steve Schmidt, who ran the campaign of Republican Presidential nominee John McCain says that, in view of “the threat posed by a political party where conservatism is now defined by absolute obedience to a leader with autocratic tendencies who fetishizes dictators and autocrats all over the world,” he says, “the Democratic Party is called to be the sentinel of American democracy and liberty,”
  • George Will – arguably Mr. Conservative among pundits for the past 40 years – says, in view of “the carnage of Republican misrule in Washington,” that Americans’ votes this year should be guided by the necessity that the Republicans be “reduced to minorities” in Congress.
  • Two conservatives – Wittes and Rauch – call for voters to vote a “straight Democratic ticket,” rejecting all Republicans because “the rule of law is a threshold value in American politics” and the Republican Party has disqualified itself by threatening that value. Despite what they regard as the “imperfections of the Democratic Party,” they declare that America needs a Blue Wave because “the Democratic Party is not a threat to our democratic order.”
  • Joe Scarborough, former Republican member of Congress, has said, “You have to ask yourself, what exactly is the Republican Party willing to do? How far are they willing to go? How much of this country and our values are they willing to sell out?”
  • Writes Max Boot, who was one of Senator McCain’s foreign policy advisors, “I join …other principled conservatives, both current and former Republicans, in rooting for a Democratic takeover of both houses in November. Like postwar Germany and Japan, the Republican Party must first be destroyed before it can be rebuilt.”

In other words, for the present urgent battle, these prominent Republican figures — and any Republicans in the electorate at large who understand the threat to the nation their party has become –  are part of the definition of “our” side in the political battle that matters right now.

They are important allies for creating the Blue Wave that America needs this November.

(Any Democrats with qualms about embracing the idea that for the coming election Democrats should form an alliance with such lifelong Republicans should recall how important it was that Churchill and FDR made common cause with Stalin’s Soviet Union during WW II. They understood what then needed to be fought and defeated. If those great wartime leaders could wage battle together with a monster like Stalin, it shouldn’t be too difficult for even the most progressive Democrats to welcome an alliance with principled Republicans like these—people well within the range of human decency, however wrong-headed any of us might think some of their conservative political leanings to be.)

It is not necessary for the other questions about the nature of the Democratic Party to be put entirely on the back burner. Those differences can be discussed, and they can be fought out in primaries. But here’s the necessary limit to any of that struggle: nothing can be allowed in any way to subvert the solidarity for the battle at hand.

(For if that battle is not dealt with successfully, it won’t much matter where the party comes down on a variety of other matters later.)

Everyone should have learned two years ago how costly a mistake it can be to fight the wrong fight, and neglect the battle that needs to be fought. Trump would not now be president, it seems reasonable to assert, if a lot of Bernie people had not been so focused on the difference between their guy and Hillary that they failed to rally wholeheartedly to the truly urgent cause of assuring that the next president was not Trump.

In view of the steep cost of that error now so terribly visible — the threat to democracy, the loss of the Court for a generation, the shredding of the Atlantic alliance, the withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord and roll-back of environmental protections, ongoing assault on the rule of law and the free press, etc. – is it too much to hope that no one will make the same error again?